Minding The Gap

Observations on how to effectively transition into law as a junior lawyer

Minding The Gap

Change is inevitable but with it comes opportunities for both learning and growth. Although navigating the divide between being a law student to a fully practising junior lawyer can feel challenging and even overwhelming at times, there are fortunately some common law school experiences and skills that can be relied on to help ease this time of transition.

The fundamentals

Although everyone’s experience at law school is different, two time- tested strategies for success are being organized and developing effective time management skills. Fortunately, these foundational skills that are crucial to law school success are also entirely transferrable to the practice of law itself with organization and time management oftentimes being a junior lawyer’s life preserver in a sea of files. Therefore, those who took the time to hone these skills in law school will continue to reap their benefits in practice; and for those who did not, it is never too late to work on improving them.

Embrace working within a team

Although the path through law school can sometimes feel solitary given that responsibility ultimately falls upon the individual student to attend classes, complete assignments, and study for exams, most seek comfort and draw strength from spending time with others in study groups. It is no different in practice as, in most cases, articling students seek support from one another and junior lawyers work within a team that typically includes a senior lawyer, paralegal, and/or legal administrative assistant. Each member of this team contributes their own skills, experience, and knowledge toward a common goal, with the only difference being that instead of A+ grade, the goal is an A+ resolution for the client.

Build your brand

Not unlike law school, the legal profession is a small and close-knit community. Therefore, upon beginning practice, a junior lawyer’s reputation can develop and spread very quickly, for better or worse. Therefore, it is important for junior lawyers to put their best foot forward at all times from day one and to always make that extra effort to be courteous and professional because a poor reputation is something that can be difficult, if not impossible, to change.

Be kind to yourself and others

Everyone makes mistakes, with lawyers (from all walks of experience) being no exception. As a result, mistakes are bound to happen. Although these mistakes can feel devastating, what matters more is how we deal with and learn from them. Therefore, just like how it is sometimes best to simply accept a bad grade and move on, junior lawyers should recognize their limitations and remember that when things do not quite go their way, they should be kind to themselves and others while turning that regret into a learning opportunity and way to improve for the future.

In summary, the transition from backpack to briefcase can be a daunting one; however, the skills and lessons that are learned in law school provide an excellent foundation for success in practice. Although it can be all too easy for a junior lawyer to doubt themselves amidst the heightened pressure and higher stakes of real-life practice, they should take comfort and confidence in knowing that the skills that they developed in law school can be relied upon in their transition to practice and beyond.

Related Articles